Amorphis – Halo (Album Review)

Amorphis – Halo (Album Review)

Three decades of growth. Three decades of magic. Three decades of gorgeous manifestations of sound commonly referred to in the collective as Melodic Death Metal, yet Finland’s progressive titans Amorphis are so much more. And here in the grip of winter, 2022, they are set to release their 14th studio album of original material. Called Halo, this latest work comes courtesy of Atomic Fire Records, and fairly hot on the heels of 2018’s majestic Queen of Time. Despite the usual delays resulting from the travails of the past few years, the band is poised to continue the creative upswing they’ve been riding, choosing once again to work with renowned Producer Jens Bogren. Can this unit reach into the void and extract that sonic sorcery they have been conjuring together once more?

As has been made evident by lead single “The Moon,” Vocalist Tomi Joutsen is reaching into the depths to extract his most deathly growls, and a trip through Halo shows that there is an overall emphasis on the growly side of the mic, with some meaty riffs and a heavier bottom end than fans experienced on either of the past two albums. But added heaviness for its own sake is not what was achieved here. Amorphis tried the super-heavy thing on 2013’s Circle album, but where that album had a kind of claustrophobic atmosphere, this time around the results were far better articulated.

On “The Wolf,” or even opener “Northwards,” the soaring leads and rhythm section of founding Guitarists Esa Holopainen and Tomi Koivusaari pin down massive earthen growls on the part of Joutsen, before rousing clean-sung choruses bear up the listener and impart the tales within the songs to such magical effect. The seamless bonding of melody and brutality is lubricated by the keys of longtime bandmate Santeri Kallio, and even in its most pummeling moments, such as the intriguing “Windmane,” the ethereal chorus takes us back to the albums of the millennium’s turn, when many felt Amorphis was straying too far from their Death Metal roots. Well, this one has both elements woven into its heart to astounding effect.

“A New Land” shows us that the guitar tandem of Holopainen/Koivusaari can churn out an endless spell of melodies, with a female vocal accompaniment on Joutsen’s clean parts that evokes perfect harmonic manifestation. The beefing up of the heaviness, though, does not completely dominate proceedings. Fans of recent gems like “Brother and Sister” or “Come The Spring” from the last two records will find joy in “When The Gods Came” and “Seven Roads Come Together.” Piano underlying Joutsen’s death growls, the former track has one of those silky ear-worm choruses this band is so good at conjuring. Truly, Amorphis’ ability to unload quality singable choruses is nothing short of astonishing. This many albums and songs in a catalog spanning three decades doesn’t lie.

“War” is heavy and slower, until Joutsen does his usual shift from gravelly growl to uplifting singer and back again. Melodic grace returns on the title track, cinematic in its delivery. They did a video for “On The Dark Waters,” which is another excellent song, but for uplifting mood and for getting right beneath the skin, it is simply lovely.

A band unafraid to try new things, Amorphis closes out Halo with the somber “My Name Is Night.” Beginning with what sounds like a cello, and a female vocalist, this ballad-like journey into star-filled evening plants the listener in the midst of a Lapland forest. If we’re not recognizing Tomi Joutsen as one of the top vocalists in Heavy Metal, we’re doing ourselves a disservice.

It may be premature to anoint the album of 2022 in early February, but right now Amorphis has it locked up. Halo is yet another profound journey into excellence from a band brimming with chemistry and confidently at the height of its powers. Since working with Jens Bogren, the band has now created three albums, a trilogy conceptually, and there is not a moment of filler on any of them. Halo takes its place proudly, a furious compound of Death Metal and melody resolved into brilliance. Cryptic Rock gives Halo 5 out of 5 stars.

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Nicholas Franco
[email protected]

Nick has been writing for CrypticRock.com since October of 2013, covering mainly artists and albums from slightly more obscure corners of the musical realm. From interviews and live event reviews to retrospective analyses and album reviews for new releases, Nick enjoys sharing a fresh perspective from a fan's point of view. He is also counted on as an occasional editor and proofreader. In addition to his work with CrypticRock.com, Nick is a contributing writer at Metalinjection.net and SeaofTranquility.org.

1Comment
  • Robert Jones
    Posted at 11:35h, 16 June Reply

    Great review Nick.

    Your Amorphis Album Ranking with Pete from Sea of Tranquility got me into the band so I started with Halo.

    Favourite song is The Wolf. Love the cover art as well. Back to back a great album.

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